Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, June 17th, 2011

Vulnerable: East-West

Dealer: East


A K 9 8

Q 9 8

6 5

Q 9 4 2


J 7 6 3

J 6 3 2

10 9 7 4



10 4 2

K 10 7

K Q J 8 3

A 5


Q 5

A 5 4

A 2

K J 10 8 7 3


South West North East
2 Pass 2 Pass
3 Pass 3 Pass
4 Pass 5 All pass

Opening Lead: Diamond 10

“More ways of killing a cat than choking her with cream.”

— Charles Kingsley

Finesses come in all shapes and sizes. Today’s five-club contract appears to hinge on the finesse for the heart queen, and with the king over dummy’s queen, declarer looks to be in trouble. Not so, so long as he is careful.

On the opening diamond lead, declarer wins his ace and takes the three top spades before drawing trump — some things just can’t wait. When both opponents follow, declarer discards his diamond loser, ruffs a diamond, then plays a trump. If East had the bare club ace and no more spades, he would have to concede at once, but as it is, he can exit with his remaining trump.

Declarer now wins the trump in dummy and leads the fourth spade, ruffing it in hand when East discards. Then he leads a low heart from hand and has reached the crux of the deal.

If West follows small, as would most of the civilized world, declarer puts in the eight from dummy, allowing East to win with the 10 and forcing him now to concede a ruff-sluff or lead a heart around to the queen.

Of course, a diabolical West might work out to put the jack in on the first round of the suit, confronting declarer with a dilemma. If West had the J-10, declarer would have to duck this trick and endplay West instead of East. With the cards lying as they do, declarer must cover the jack and finesse against the 10 on the second round of the suit.


South holds:

J 7 6 3
J 6 3 2
10 9 7 4


South West North East
2 2 Pass
ANSWER: Your action here depends a little on the vulnerability and maybe also on the form of scoring (and your partner’s sense of humor!). My instincts are to bid five diamonds at once, robbing the opponents of Blackwood and making my LHO guess whether to introduce his clubs at once. Even if he has a balanced hand, the penalty may not be so extreme.


For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2July 1st, 2011 at 3:10 pm

You pose such interesting bidding problems! 5D here is quite attractive, but I sure would like to know more about what East might have.

That is, East could be very weak, of course, and should not have a 5-card suit plus positive response values. Additionally, East should not have positive response values and a balanced hand with a diamond stopper.

The above are fairly obvious, but I do not know what East could have shown with a double or a cue bid and, thus, does not have because East passed, instead.

Similarly, if I raised only to 4D (due to my possible defense against 4M), would a double now by West show majors (or a willingness to correct to 5C)? Would a pass by West be forcing?

Bobby WolffJuly 1st, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Hi Jim2,

Your interest and enthusiasm continues to (if you excuse the expression) bridge the gap from gasping to concrete learning which, in some very rare cases, proceeds to enable an heretofore average player to relatively soon be challenging at the top. However, regarding the 2nd type please understand that the difference between challenging at the top and arriving there seems to ALWAYS take the experience garnered along the way which is slower learned than impatience will sometimes allow.

First two things to learn and live with:

1. Bridge improvement (especially bidding) is still in process involved primarily in updating every conceivable possible bid available into describing the most pertinent practical description likely to be of much use to partner.

2. There are two types of very high-level theorists involved in the process, one with a very scientific bent who is rarely slowed by someone who prefers a more practical application and, of course, the other high-level theorist who accents pragmatism and realistically does not expect perfection or really anything close, but still wants to enable his partnership to make use of practical gadgets to basically improve judgment.

Now to your specific questions. Most high-level partnerships play that after a strong 2 bid (usually 2 artificial clubs) and an overcall that a pass by the strong hand’s partner shows a positive hand (with a double showing a complete bust 0-3 HCP’s and balanced), but usually balanced, since with a good suit or enough HCP’s and the opponent’s suit stopped an immediate NT bid of some description would be proper.

Therefore on the example hand, and assuming that the opponents are of the above ilk, they are now forced to game so that preemption becomes a tool in which to interfere with their foe’s information gathering. I, myself, might suggest only 4 diamonds, which, while not as defensively blocking, is a little bit safer since our hand is so weak that even with diamonds as trump we may go set too many. However it is in some ways the same as preferring chocolate or vanilla, and more to the point, the event being played and exactly who the opponents happen to be is often the determining factor.

Do not worry about your meager defense against majors since there is yet too much water to flow before anything will really be known, but the only now task at hand is to bid something and start the hope process.

One of the most difficult facts for a bright wannabe bridge player to realize is that, at this point novices and super players have the same lack of knowledge as to what is going to happen, so do not worry about it since there is nothing more we can do, at least at this time.

Also do not forget, once you choose either 4 diamonds or 5, by the unwritten rules of the preemptor you have now appointed your partner captain of this hand and he, NOT YOU, should make all future decisions in the bidding. If your psyche is not up to bidding anything but pass on this hand, so be it, but also you need to NEVER than to attempt to come to the partnership rescue later with an uneducated bid at the death.

As far as the strong hand’s bidding, a straight out later bid would, of course, show a suit, while a double would tend to show a balanced hand (probably short in the opponent’s suit) and a pass would be somewhere in between and leave it up to partner to better describe his original pass, but of course, the original partner would not be allowed to pass.

Finally in response to your partner’s later double, being the partner of the strong hand, tend to pass with a balanced hand and only bid if you have a decent long suit 5+ (and usually 6+) and have great expectations, opposite that very strong hand of partners to be able to make your contract.

Good luck in this very tedious process of learning while not at the table, making your own mistakes, but learning slowly to sally forth.

jim2July 1st, 2011 at 6:04 pm

I am obviously behind in my bridge theory. I did not know that East’s pass was a “catch-all” positive response. 5D makes more sense, then.